With David Montgomery banged up and eventually officially out for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, there was nothing to hold Lions rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs back from having the big role everyone outside the building has been clamoring for.
For much of Sunday's game, Gibbs could not find much room to run as the Falcons formidable interior defensive line dominated the Lions' interior offensive lineman. The offense was generally not efficient due to the offensive line's lackluster play and an injury-forced revolving door at right tackle, as Jared Goff took the kind of hits he rarely takes.
After an interception thrown by Goff, and a quick series by the Falcons, the Lions led 13-3 in the fourth quarter. Letting the Falcons stick around like that when you'd generally outplayed them the way you had was a recipe for a disappointing loss. But it's clear these are not the "Same Old Lions."
Jahmyr Gibbs played key role in Lions closing out victory over the Falcons
On back-to-back plays during a fourth quarter drive, Gibbs kick-started things with runs of 12 and 21 yards to take the Lions from Atlanta's 41-yard line down to the eight. Two plays later, with Gibbs as a decoy on the play, Goff scored a rushing touchdown to extend the Lions' lead beyond one score and put the game away.
For those concerned about what his workload would be, Gibbs finished Sunday's game with 17 carries for 80 yards and one reception (on two targets) for two yards. More involvement as a pass catcher would have been nice, but as Pro Football Focus noted Craig Reynolds took a fair chunk of passing down snaps. But Gibbs played 42 of 70 total offensive snaps, for an even 60 percent share, with Reynolds (20 snaps) and Zonovan Knight (seven snaps) clearly behind him.
So Gibbs got the kind of workload people wanted to see in his first start, even if it wasn't the full vision of what he could do with more work. And when it mattered the most, he propelled the game-clinching drive with back-to-back explosive runs.